Scene: Midnight. In the fog shrouded graveyard, a noise is heard of digging. Against your will, you are drawn forward, drawn to the macabre scene…
From the depths of the open grave, the madman’s voice is heard, “They said it was mad! THEY said it should not be done! BUT I SAY that IT shall LIVE AGAINNNNN! Bwaa Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!”
A few years ago, on a mailing list far, far away, the members of the list discussed how to make good films into pulp-themed action adventures. I hate to let a goofy idea die; after all, why should we be content to be inspired by (AKA rip off) films like
Army of Darkness
when we can mine material from (AKA rip off) classy, award-winning films like
The Shawshank Redemption
. So, let us now violently warp some popular film plots!
Additional Ideas (3)
Now, what would it take to make Cast Away into a “good” pulp fantasy adventure, doing as much violence to the plot as possible?
The adventure would open on the high seas, as desperate mutineers attempt to take over the heroes’ ship in the midst of a terrible storm. They are shipwrecked on a desert island.
Exploring the island, the heroes discover it to be inhabited by primitive tribesmen, who take the heroes in, but soon challenge them to prove themselves in ritual combat (and marry the Chieftain’s "beautiful" daughter). Of course, the loser in the ritual combat is served as that night's dinner (and his head is preserved as a trophy for the winner)....
Soon, the heroes attract the attention of another group; a small colony of culturally advanced people that live in an underground city in the island's "extinct" volcano. The beautiful queen of these people summons the heroes to their city, but her sinister father fears them as a menace to their utopian society. He sends ferocious reptilian abominations to kill them....
Of course, the volcano erupts, and the heroes are forced to flee with the queen in her personal pleasure ship. Naturally, they have to battle her father's men in the hidden cave where they are moored as the mountain comes apart around them....
Before using this plot as an adventure, there are a few questions that the GM will want to consider:
Why are the heroes on such a journey, anyway? Are they hired security? Do they need to flee the country in a hurry? Were they hoping to seduce the captain’s beautiful daughter?
Who is trying to take over the ship and why are they doing it? Superstitious sailors (correctly) afraid that the journey will lead them to their doom? Teleporting Eunuch Sorcerers seeking a magical treasure being transported aboard her? Pirates that infiltrated the crew to hijack her, then rendezvous with a hidden pirate fleet? Do any of the villains survive to cause trouble later?
Where did the advanced colony come from? Exiled refugees from some political upheaval? Descendants of a lost empire, preserving its forgotten ways? Alien mage-scientists from a distant plane that have adopted human form to study this dimension?
And finally, what does the queen want with the strange outsiders? Does this have anything to do with the impending volcanic eruption? Might the heroes be responsible for the catastrophe? Did a battle in the colony's geothermal power facility disrupt its delicate magical balance? Were they always doomed, but the queen is the only one willing to face the fact?
Not Swamp Thing, but the original Thing, John Carpender I think.
What could we do with this?
The players are part of a caravan, gaurds perhaps. Or. They are traveling to some distant treasure or thril lseeking adventure and they get stuck in a small outpost of a town. This could be due to weather, heavy snows, torrential rains, or other normal mother nature type of event. They are forced ot stay over, any attempt to travel outside the safe zone of the town results in little to no gain in their travel.
While there have a small outbreak or illness break out and people end up missing or dying. The end result? Someone infected with some abnormal creature that takes over their body and morphs into the nightmare of every adventurers dreams. They are forced ot destroy half the town, population to properly kill this abomination. Perhaps it is a curse of some wicked demon, evil god, witch, or other non-disclaimed villian NPC.
A horror classic turned fantasy adventure gone wrong. Short and to the point. Hey I'm not good at this sort of thing.
What would The Shawshank Redemption be like if it were a “D and D style” heroic fantasy adventure?
The heroes are contacted by a mysterious patron, a man opposed to the corrupt government oppressing the people. He wants them to infiltrate a grim fortress, Chaw’Chanakh, and find and rescue a heroic prisoner there, Randrow Duffens. Duffens had been imprisoned by the evil men ruling the area, framed for murder because of his opposition to their regime.
As the heroes meet with their patron, the troops of the wicked ruler storm their meeting place in an attempt to capture them.
They may plan to infiltrate the fortress’ garrison or allow themselves to be captured. Once within the forbidding dungeons of the ancient stronghold, they discover that magical means to communicate or escape work unreliably. In a further shock, they learn that the prisoners there are forced to participate in gladiatorial contests against horrible monstrosities. An ancient, wizened prisoner, insane due to his lengthy incarceration, reveals the existance of secret passages within the dungeons that could make an escape possible.
Finding Duffens, they learn that he has been magically altered and is now one of the abominations that the prisoners fight against. The wicked sorcerer responsible for running this depraved place uses the inmates for his horrible magical experiments. The heroes must acquire an antidote from the wizard’s laboratory before they can achieve their goal of escape.
Within the laboratory, their efforts to free their man also disrupt some of the spells binding other altered prisoners. Insane from their ordeal, these wretches break loose and wander the tunnels, attacking randomly before the heroes can escape.
In a climactic final battle, the heroes are confronted by the evil sorcerer himself, as the entire prison erupts into chaos, with monsters attacking, prisoners escaping, fires breaking out, and magical wards exploding. The vicious man uses the magical formulae he has perfected to reshape himself into a horrible monstrosity, a destructive juggernaut of battle, eager to destroy those who have brought down his twisted little empire.
There are a few questions that the GM will want to consider, details that may make for follow-up adventures:
Why must Duffens be rescued? Does he possess some knowledge needed by the heroic resistance? Is the evil regime going to use him against their enemies?
What is the evil sorcerer planning to do with his nasty formulae? Is he going to create an army of monstrous soldiers? If so, who would they be loyal to?
An Alternate Beginning
It could be fun to start things “in media res”, with the heroes imprisoned in the depths of the dark and forbidding dungeons of Chaw’Chanankh, trapped by the forces of evil. In this version of events, they would be forced to participate in the gladiatorial contests themselves, until the ravings of an ancient inmate give them the clues needed to find the secret passages that will enable their escape. One or more of them may have been altered into monstrosities, taunted by the evil sorcerer with the knowledge that they can be cured.
As a warning to less experienced GMs: Never arbitrarily “lock up” the party without getting them to “buy into” the idea first. If they have no way to evade capture, it’s a “rail job”, which players hate. If they can evade capture, some of them will always manage to somehow; then your elaborate prison escape adventure plot will go right out the window. Either convince them to let themselves be captured, or start the game with new characters, letting them know that they will start out as prisoners.